Students in class

2011 recipient

Dr. Sebastian Luft

Associate professor of philosophy

Professor of philosophy, that he was drawn to a career in academics. After all, both of his parents worked for a university in a variety of roles. His passion for philosophy was a bit unexpected, but has not abated since it arose late in high school.
As the recipient of the Way Klingler Fellowship in Humanities, Luft will spend additional time studying philosophers influenced by the work of Immanuel Kant. The fellowship provides $20,000 annually for three years, which Luft will use to reduce his teaching load and support a research assistant. He will also use the funds to visit archives and libraries in central Europe.

Over those three years, Luft’s plan is to complete three books. Two are already underway, with the third book intended as a novel history of modern scientific philosophy. According to Luft, the book will demonstrate how scientific philosophy is a result of post-Kantian philosophers building upon and ­transforming Kant’s ideas.
“The Way Klingler Fellowship will allow Dr. Luft to further his work in regard to international collaboration,” said Dr. James South, chair and professor of philosophy. “His work, focused squarely on the genesis of contemporary philosophy, will do much to raise the profile of the Department of Philosophy within the profession, both in the United States and internationally.”

Luft believes that Kant is one of the most significant philosophers, whose greatest contribution was starting a novel project in philosophy that brought new clarity to the ideas and culture at the heart of the Enlightenment. “Its main notion, in my understanding, is to conceive of the human being as a creature that strives to give answers to questions which can never be fully answered but that these questions can be transformed into guidelines for our concrete life,” Luft explained.

This “ingenious mix” of ambition and humility is a concept Luft has found very intriguing and appealing, both as a scholar and person. As Luft sees it, Kant’s ambition is evident in his drive to gain “a comprehensive overview of what constitutes a human being and our cognitive faculties,” while expressing a great deal of humility in “recognizing the factual limits of our capacities.”

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